Tag Archives: defense

Micro-Organisms and Biotechnology – Birchfield Interactive


Micro-Organisms and Biotechnology

High School Edition

Birchfield Interactive

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $0.99

Publish Date: July 17, 2012

Publisher: Birchfield Interactive


This textbook uses stunning 3D animation with voice-over, video, imagery and interactive activities to ensure effective learning for this topic. Superb for independent learning, covering the following topics areas: Classes of Microbes; Microbes and Disease; Defense Against Microbes; Microbes and Food Production; Other Applications of Biotechnology, and Famous Microbial Discoveries.


Micro-Organisms and Biotechnology – Birchfield Interactive

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James Mattis Doesn’t Really Fit In With the Trump Administration

Mother Jones

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From our Secretary of Defense earlier this evening:

Oh snap. Do you have any more shade you’d like to throw at your boss?

He seems to have a firm grasp of who he works for, anyway.

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James Mattis Doesn’t Really Fit In With the Trump Administration

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The Question Sean Spicer Hasn’t Asked the President

Mother Jones

You’d think President Donald Trump’s opinion of climate change might inform the decision he promised to make on the Paris climate accord this week, following meetings with G7 leaders who pressured him to keep the US engaged. But it seems his team doesn’t know what his position actually is.

At a White House briefing on Tuesday, here is Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s response to a reporter’s question about whether Trump believes human activity is contributing to global warming: “Honestly, I haven’t asked him. I can get back to you.

The reporter then asked if he feels as if Trump is still trying to make up his mind. “I don’t know,” Spicer responded.

Though Spicer didn’t hint at what his boss will ultimately decide, he mentioned that Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt met on Tuesday. That might be a bad sign, as Pruitt has been leading the Trump administration’s “leave” contingent.

It’s not just Spicer who’s sent mixed signals about whether Trump still thinks global warming is a “total, and very expensive, hoax,” as he’s tweeted.

During a press briefing in late March, when Trump was rolling out his anti-climate executive orders, a reporter asked a senior White House official whether the president accepted that humans contribute to climate change. “Sure. Yes, I think the president understands the disagreement over the policy response,” he replied. But pressed further, he couldn’t fully explain Trump’s position, his advisers, or his own, for that matter. “I guess the key question is to what extent, over what period of time,” he said. “Those are the big questions that I think still we need to answer.”

His advisers have recently suggested that Trump’s views on the Paris deal and climate change were, in the words of economic adviser Gary Cohn, “evolving,” though they’ve offered little evidence of what those views now are. “I think he is learning to understand the European position,” Cohn said during the G7 meetings last week. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who acknowledges climate change as a threat, claimed Trump was “curious about why others were in the position they were” on the Paris deal, and that he was “wide open” on the issue.

Regardless what Trump thinks of the Paris agreement, he’s been clear that his policy choices won’t reflect the best available science. Our timeline of Trump’s comments on global warming should give you a better idea of the ebbs and flows of his position since 2009.

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The Question Sean Spicer Hasn’t Asked the President

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We just hit 410 ppm of CO2. Welcome to a whole new world.

That’s as much as Germany’s yearly emissions.

It’s hardly the first example of a business charging ahead on climate change mitigation while governments dither. Pretty much every giant corporation has made a commitment to reduce its emissions: food titan Unilever, everything maker General Electric, and IKEA (where you get your OMLOPPs), and on and on.

But what Walmart does matters. The company is such a behemoth that its policy changes trigger transformation around the globe. Walmart is the 10th largest economic entity in the world, after Canada, so this effort, dubbed “Project Gigaton,” is akin to every Canadian signing on to a strict sustainability plan.

Most of Walmart’s environmental footprint comes from other businesses extracting raw materials to manufacture Walmart’s products. So it will be pushing its suppliers to clean up their act, aiming to slash a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain.

The Environmental Defense Fund has been working with Walmart to cut its emissions for years, and so there’s a track record here. In 2010, Walmart pledged to cut 28 million metric tons (like removing 6 million cars from the road), then surpassed that goal in five years. Now, they’re aiming to meet a goal 35 times larger, by 2030.

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We just hit 410 ppm of CO2. Welcome to a whole new world.

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Trump May Not Care About Climate Change, But the Pentagon Does

Mother Jones

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This story originally appeared on ProPublica.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real and a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, a position that appears at odds with the views of the president who appointed him and many in the administration in which he serves.

In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said it was incumbent on the US military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

Mattis has long espoused the position that the armed forces, for a host of reasons, need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy where it makes sense. He had also, as commander of the US Joint Forces Command in 2010, signed off on the Joint Operating Environment, which lists climate change as one of the security threats the military expected to confront over the next 25 years.

But Mattis’ written statements to the Senate committee are the first direct signal of his determination to recognize climate change as a member of the Trump administration charged with leading the country’s armed forces.

These remarks and others in the replies to senators could be a fresh indication of divisions or uncertainty within President Donald Trump’s administration over how to balance the president’s desire to keep campaign pledges to kill Obama-era climate policies with the need to engage constructively with allies for whom climate has become a vital security issue.

Mattis’ statements on climate change, for instance, recognize the same body of science that Scott Pruitt, the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator, seems dead-set on rejecting. In a CNBC interview last Thursday, Pruitt rejected established science pointing to carbon dioxide as the main driver of recent global warming.

Mattis’ position also would appear to clash with some Trump administration budget plans, which, according to documents leaked recently to The Washington Post, include big cuts for the Commerce Department’s oceanic and atmospheric research 2014 much of it focused on tracking and understanding climate change.

Even setting aside warming driven by accumulating carbon dioxide, it’s clear to a host of experts, including Dr. Will Happer, a Princeton physicist interviewed by Trump in January as a potential science adviser, that better monitoring and analysis of extreme conditions like drought is vital.

Mattis’ statements could hearten world leaders who have urged the Trump administration to remain engaged on addressing global warming. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet Trump on Friday.

Security questions related to rising seas and changing weather patterns in global trouble spots like the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are one reason that global warming has become a focus in international diplomatic forums. On March 10, the United Nations Security Council was warned of imminent risk of famine in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan.

As well, at a Munich meeting on international security issues last month, attended by Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence, European officials pushed back on demands that they spend more on defense, saying their investments in boosting resilience to climate hazards in poor regions of the world are as valuable to maintaining security as strong military forces.

“You need the European Union, because when you invest in development, when you invest in the fight against climate change, you also invest in our own security,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a panel discussion.

Concerns about the implications of global warming for national security have built within the Pentagon and national security circles for decades, including under both Bush administrations.

In September, acting on the basis of a National Intelligence Council report he commissioned, President Obama ordered more than a dozen federal agencies and offices, including the Defense Department, “to ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans.”

A related “action plan” was issued on Dec. 23, requiring those agencies to create a Climate and National Security Working Group within 60 days, and for relevant agencies to create “implementation plans” in that same period.

There’s no sign that any of this has been done.

Whether the inaction is a function of the widespread gaps in political appointments at relevant agencies, institutional inertia or a policy directive from the Trump White House remains unclear.

Queries to press offices at the White House and half a dozen of the involved agencies 2014 including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, Department of Energy and Commerce Department 2014 have not been answered. A State Department spokeswoman directed questions to the National Security Council and the White House, writing:

“We refer you to the NSC for any additional information on the climate working group.”

Mattis’ statements were submitted through a common practice at confirmation hearings in which senators pose “questions for the record” seeking more detail on a nominee’s stance on some issue.

The questions and answers spanned an array of issues, but five Democratic senators on the committee asked about climate change, according to a government official briefed in detail on the resulting 58-page document with the answers. The senators were Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking member, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Excerpts from Mattis’ written comments to the committee were in material provided to ProPublica by someone involved with work climate change preparedness at various government agencies. Senate staff confirmed their authenticity.

Dustin Walker, communications director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said responses to individual senators’ follow-up questions are theirs to publish or not.

Here are two of the climate questions from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, with Mattis’ replies:

Shaheen: “I understand that while you were commander of US Joint Forces Command you signed off on a document called the Joint Operating Environment, which listed climate change as one of the security threats the military will face in the next quarter-century. Do you believe climate change is a security threat?”

Mattis: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”

Shaheen: “General Mattis, how should the military prepare to address this threat?”

Mattis: “As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.”

In a reply to another question, Mattis said:

“I agree that the effects of a changing climate 2014 such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others 2014 impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”

Here is some recommended reading for those seeking more depth:

Here’s How US Allies Are Trying to Convince Trump To Take Climate Change Seriously

UN Dispatch, Feb. 22, 2017, by John Light

Mattis on Military Energy Strategy

New America, Jan. 13, 2017, by Sharon Burke

Climate and Security Advisory Group: Briefing Book for a New Administration

The Center for Climate and Security, Nov. 14, 2017

(The Center for Climate and Security also has a helpful chronology of US defense and intelligence output on these intertwined issues.)

A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks

A 2015 report commissioned by the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven

The National Security Case for Funding the EPA

The Hill (opinion), March 11, 2017, by Sherri Goodman (a deputy undersecretary of defense from 1993 to 2001)

Also, I ran a discussion on the subject at the Washington offices of the Hoover Institution last month with retired Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, who was chief of naval operations from 2007 to 2011; Alice Hill, who directed work on the intersection of climate and national security policy at the National Security Council during the Obama administration; and David Slayton, a retired Navy officer who is now at Hoover tracking Arctic security and energy policy. Watch the video.

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Trump May Not Care About Climate Change, But the Pentagon Does

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Who’s to Blame For the Disaster in Yemen?

Mother Jones

The raid in Yemen that went pear shaped on Saturday was originally planned under the Obama administration. However, they were unable to complete their detailed assessment before Obama left office. Then Trump and his team took over and—apparently—decided to speed things up:

Mr. Trump’s new national security team, led by Mr. Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a retired general with experience in counterterrorism raids, has said that it wants to speed the decision-making when it comes to such strikes, delegating more power to lower-level officials so that the military may respond more quickly. Indeed, the Pentagon is drafting such plans to accelerate activities against the Qaeda branch in Yemen.

That’s the New York Times. Here’s the Washington Post on the same subject:

“We expect an easier approval cycle for operations under this administration,” another defense official said…“We really struggled with getting the Obama White House comfortable with getting boots on the ground in Yemen,” the former official said. “Since the new administration has come in, the approvals at the Pentagon appear to have gone up.”

And here is Reuters:

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations. As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

Reading between the lines, Trump figured that Obama was a wuss and spent too much time over-litigating this stuff. He wanted action, so he approved the mission. It went badly, and now military officials are blaming Trump, telling reporters that he went ahead “without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.”

Is that really what happened? Or is the Pentagon throwing Trump under the bus for a failure that’s their fault? I suppose we might find out if Congress decided to investigate, but that would be out of character for them. After all, Congress rarely spends its time holding contentious hearings about missions in dangerous parts of the world that go south and get people killed. I can’t think of one recently, anyway.

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Who’s to Blame For the Disaster in Yemen?

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Swamp Watch – 5 December 2016

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump has chosen Ben Carson as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Why? He’s not remotely qualified for the position and he’s publicly (!) stated that he doesn’t have the experience to lead a government agency. Still, Carson is black and the U in HUD stands for Urban, and that’s probably enough for Trump.

Does this sound unbearably smug and elitist? Sure, I’ll cop to that. But as near as I can tell, Trump has already picked a Defense Secretary solely on the strength of the fact that his nickname is “Mad Dog,” and a UN ambassador because she looks kind of foreign. So it fits.

By the way, you’ll notice that in my table below I’ve finally decided to label Mnuchin and Ross as part of the swamp. My original hesitation was because they weren’t part of DC politics. Does Wall Street count as part of the swamp? Upon reflection, of course it does. Hell, Mnuchin even comes from Goldman Sachs. If that’s not part of the swamp, what is?

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Swamp Watch – 5 December 2016

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Meet Ret. General Michael Flynn, the Most Gullible Guy in the Army

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump’s favorite general, Michael Flynn, was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency a couple of years ago. The circumstances have long been a bit mysterious. On one side, the story is that he was pushed out due to a revolt of his senior staff over his abusive and chaotic management style. Flynn himself says it was because he was tough on Islamic terrorism, and the weenies in the White House didn’t like it.

In any case, Flynn has been “right wing nutty” ever since, in Colin Powell’s words, so naturally he’s now in line for a top position in the Trump administration. Possibly National Security Advisor. But whatever you think of Flynn, he was the head of an intelligence agency and therefore ought to have a pretty good BS detector. Apparently he doesn’t:

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Meet Ret. General Michael Flynn, the Most Gullible Guy in the Army

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In First Public Appearance Since Her Defeat, Clinton Urges Supporters to "Stay Engaged"

Mother Jones

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In her first public appearance since conceding to Donald Trump last week, Hillary Clinton delivered an emotional speech and urged her supporters to remain committed to fighting for progressive ideals despite her unexpected election defeat.

“I know many of you are deeply disappointed about the results of the election—I am too, more than I can ever express,” Clinton said, speaking to guests at a gala Wednesday for the Children’s Defense Fund, the child’s advocacy organization where she started her career after law school.

“I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves whether America was the country we thought it was,” she said holding back tears. “The divisions laid bare by this election run deep, but please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it. Our children are worth it.”

As the crowd interrupted her remarks with applause and cheers, Clinton also acknowledged that coming to speak at the Washington, DC, event was not easy for her, but her sense of the importance of this work for children and families outweighed the difficulty.

“Stay engaged on every level,” she said forcefully. “We need you, America needs you—your energy, your ambition, your talent. That’s how we get through this.”

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In First Public Appearance Since Her Defeat, Clinton Urges Supporters to "Stay Engaged"

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This American Company Is Finally Getting Out of the Cluster Bomb Business

Mother Jones

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The CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon first saw combat in the early months of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On April 2, 2003, an Iraqi tank column was advancing toward a Marine unit in southwest Baghdad. The marines had no tank support, but a new weapon was on its way. A B-52 bomber dropped two CBU-105 cluster bombs aimed at the leading edge of the Iraqi armor. “The entire first third of the Iraqi tank column was decimated,” said Air Force Col. James Knox. “The Iraqis in the back of the tank column immediately stopped and surrendered to the Marines.”

It was the perfect unveiling for the CBU-105, which quickly became the United States’ go-to anti-armored vehicle munition. But in the past decade, cluster munitions have become known not for deadly accuracy but indiscriminate carnage and civilian casualties. And now, after sustained international pressure, the internationally-banned weapon will no longer be made in the United States—at least for now.

On Tuesday, Textron Manufacturing Systems announced that it is ceasing production of the controversial CBU-105, citing reduced orders, a volatile political environment, and international weapons treaties that negatively affect the “ownability” of its shares. “Historically, sensor-fuzed weapon sales have relied on foreign military and direct commercial international customers for which both executive branch and congressional approval is required,” Textron said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “The current political environment has made it difficult to obtain these approvals.”

The announcement comes three months after Textron’s CEO defended the weapon in a Providence Journal op-ed amid ongoing protests at the company’s Rhode Island headquarters. Around the same time, the Obama Administration blocked the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia in a rare display of unease over the growing civilian death toll in the Saudi Arabia-led war against Shiite rebels in Yemen.

Cluster bombs, which are dropped from aircraft or launched from the ground, contain submunitions, or “bomblets,” that spread over a wide area before exploding. They’re intended to target military convoys or installations, but can kill or injure anyone who happens to be nearby. Bomblets that fail to detonate can become de facto landmines, laying in wait for anyone unfortunate enough to come across them. The CBU-105 cluster bomb contains 10 canisters, each of which disperses 4 explosive bomblets, called “skeets,” which can spread out over an area the size of a football field before detonating.

In 2008, the United States came up with a policy to end its use and export of all cluster munitions by 2018 except for those whose failure rates are less than one percent. In lab settings, the CBU-105 meets the criteria, blowing up 99 percent of the time they’re deployed. But many observers and activists question whether that’s been the case on the battlefield after documenting numerous cases of unexploded skeets.

Morgan Stritzinger, a Textron spokesperson, defended the CBU-105 in a statement to Mother Jones. “The Sensor Fuzed Weapon is a smart, reliable air-to-ground weapon that is in full compliance with the US Defense Department policy and current law,” she wrote.

According to the 2016 Cluster Munition Monitor, civilians made up 97 percent of cluster-bomb casualties in 2015. More than a third were children. Since the beginning of 2015, Syrian government forces have dropped 13 types of cluster munitions in at least 360 attacks, resulting in 248 deaths. And the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has used cluster munitions in at least 19 attacks, killing more than 100. Casualties from cluster munition remnants have also been documented in six other countries.

Under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, more than 100 countries have banned the CBU-105. Yet major arms-supplying nations, including United States and Russia, have refused to sign the treaty. Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stated that eliminating cluster munitions from US stockpiles “would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk.” The last known time the United States used cluster bombs was in 2009, when it sent a Tomahawk missile armed with cluster bombs at an alleged Al Qaeda training camp in Yemen. The attack killed 35 women and children and as many 14 militants.

“Textron has taken the right decision to discontinue its production of sensor fuzed weapons, which are prohibited by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions,” Mary Wareham, the arms advocacy director at Human Rights Watch told Mother Jones in an e-mail. “This decision now clears the path for the administration and Congress to work together to permanently end US production, transfer, and use of all cluster munitions. Such steps would help bring the US into alignment with the international ban treaty and enable it to join.”

How likely that is remains to be seen. This week, states parties and advocates meet in Geneva for the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. But as former Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer turned public radio reporter John Ismay notes, the United States doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to arms treaties. “We haven’t signed the land mine treaty. We still have nuclear weapons. We still have napalm bombs in the inventory,” he says. “I have a feeling these are things we’ll hang on to.”

Plus, they’re still legal under US law. While Textron Systems is ending its cluster bomb program, the Pentagon could turn to a different manufacturer. Or Textron may be willing to license its technology to other defense contractors. On that point, the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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This American Company Is Finally Getting Out of the Cluster Bomb Business

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